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The city’s best features, such as La Sagrada Familia, are perennially being patched up by unsightly cranes and scaffolding, graffiti (only some of which transcends to art) is splashed over shutters and walls and the household garbage of local residents, left out on the pavements for collection, mar the otherwise picturesque streets of Barcelona’s Old Town.

theodor vasile rdc travel
theodor vasile rdc travel

Bizarre perhaps, but it’s the city’s rough edges that makes you love her even more. Barcelona is no too-good-to-be-true model tourist town, full of perfect paint jobs and picture postcard plazas. She is a real city who wears her fierce Catalan heart on her sleeve, dresses in the fading – but still beautiful – Modernista facades of yesteryear, and courts the company of dreadlocked hipsters, tattooed beatniks and other assorted counter-culture kids. Liberal, self-contented and loud-mouthed (especially after a caña or two), this is a city which never feels guilty about having a good time, and doesn’t care what she looks like in the morning.

Best of the Beaten Track

Gaudi grabs the headlines when it comes to attractions in Barcelona, and it’s interesting to note that the very works once mocked for their OTT grandiosity and ‘superbly creative bad taste’ (according to Salvador Dali), have now become synonymous with the city’s aesthetic.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia is of course his crowning glory and it really is worth braving the queues to get up close and personal with this towering cathedral, built along the architectural principles of Mother Nature which intrigued Gaudi as a boy (update, no need to brave queues… you can buy an advance ticket from Get Your Guide and choose an arrival time. Way better!).

Park Guell

Gaudi’s foray into landscape gardening, Park Guell, is also well worth the metro ride north (take the green line from the centre up to Lesseps). The views over the city are tremendous and film buffs will enjoy deconstructing scenes from both L’Auberge Espagnole and Vicki Cristina Barcelona. Sadly it’s no longer free to enter, and you’re best advised buying a ticket in advance.

The Gaudi Mansions

Other Gaudi show-stoppers include the Casa Batllo and Casa Mila aka ‘La Pedrera’, both on the grand Passeig de Gracia boulevard.

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas is the city’s iconic thoroughfare, a love it or loathe it place, bursting with flower stalls, souvenir shops, cartoon artists, street performers as well as street hawkers, pickpockets and (by night) prostitutes and constantly jam-packed with people at almost any hour of the day. This chaotic boulevard is also the gateway to the sensory overload of La Boqueria food market and palm-tree serenity of Plaça Reial, a good starting place for a jaunt deeper into the Gothic Quarter.


Those with a bit more time to play with should get over to Montjuic (Jewish Mountain) home to an oddball selection of cultural greats such as the National Museum of Catalan Art, Poble Espanyol, Joan Miro Foundation, Caixa Forum, Calatrava’s needle and, by night, the delightfully cheesy Magic Fountains light and sound show.

City Beaches

If at some point you feel your ‘museum legs’ coming on, then there’s always Barcelona’s many beaches to check out. They have their critics, but any qualms about dirty water and overcrowding is offset by the sheer entertainment provided by unabashed nudists, bronzed volleyball players, bongo-bashers/banjo-strummers, Asian hawkers, South American surfers and many more colourful characters. If the heat gets too much an ice-cold mojito at one of the chiringuitos (beach bars) = time well spent.

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